If you’ve seen someone run a red light in Texas, you may have observed a quick flash of light as they passed through the intersection. And if you’ve run a red light yourself, you may have received the eventual result of that flash: a hefty ticket in the mail.
Red-light cameras punish drivers who barrel through red lights by recording images of their vehicle, including the license plate number, and generating reports that can be used to ticket the offenders. Traffic safety experts generally support red-light cameras. Polls also show that the public favors them. However, some opponents say that red-light cameras don’t reduce traffic crashes and are simply a way for states to gain revenue.
Recently, this debate intensified in Texas when our state’s governor, Greg Abbott, announced that he wanted lawmakers to ban cities throughout Texas, including San Antonio, from using red-light cameras.
Texas Governor Leads Charge Against Red-Light Cameras
Texas cities aren’t unusual in using red-light cameras. According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, 24 states and the District of Columbia have communities with at least one red-light camera. And a 2011 poll by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) showed that two-thirds of drivers in cities with red-light cameras said they supported the devices.
However, Gov. Abbott says he isn’t swayed by the evidence in favor of red-light cameras. In a recent list of recommendations that he says are designed to improve public safety in Dallas, he argued that red-light cameras increase some types of crashes and may be unconstitutional in the United States.
“While proponents of red-light cameras claim that their presence leads to an increase in safety by decreasing the number of angle accidents [or side-impact collisions], data show that they may lead to an overall increase in other types of accidents such as rear-ending due to sharp braking,” Abbott wrote in the list of recommendations.
“An IIHS review of international red-light camera studies found that the cameras reduce injury-causing crashes by 25–30 percent.”
This isn’t the first time that Abbott has taken aim at red-light cameras. In 2013, while serving as Texas’ attorney general, he proposed letting residents vote to repeal cities’ red-light camera ordinances. The idea received support in the state legislature and eventually turned into a bill that passed in the Senate but stalled in the House.
Do Red Light Cameras Reduce Car Accidents?
Available data on the effectiveness of red-light cameras shows mixed results. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that intersections with red-light cameras experience fewer collisions, especially side-impact or “T-bone” crashes. And an IIHS review of international red-light camera studies found that the cameras reduce injury-causing crashes by 25–30 percent.
However, a more recent study from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute concluded that red-light cameras aren’t always effective at reducing wrecks. Based on a study of 254 intersections spread across 32 Texas communities, researchers concluded that when rear-end cameras were installed in intersections where drivers frequently ran red lights, they tended to reduce collisions overall by about 33 percent, although they slightly increased the rate of rear-end collisions.
But at intersections where drivers rarely ran red lights, installing cameras increased the total number of collisions. And a subsequent study conducted in Northern Virginia yielded similar results.
Red-Light Cameras May Offer Hidden Safety Benefits
Clearly, red-light cameras require further study to prove or disprove their effectiveness. But despite the conflicting evidence over the effect of red-light cameras on collision rates, these cameras can promote traffic safety in other ways. The cameras have generated about $641 million in state revenue according to data from the Texas Comptroller’s Office, and the Texas Department of Transportation says that some of this money goes to fund regional trauma centers and local traffic safety programs.
Red-light cameras can also provide valuable evidence in a personal injury case. By photographing a crash and establishing each driver’s position and trajectory, the cameras can help injured victims and their attorneys prove negligence even when other forms of evidence like eyewitness testimony aren’t available. Unfortunately, if Governor Abbott gets his way, injured victims may have one less tool available to hold negligent drivers accountable.
Crosley Law: Committed to Helping Victims of Negligent Driving in San Antonio
At Crosley Law Firm, we work with car accident victims to identify the causes of their injuries and hold negligent parties accountable. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries because of someone else’s negligence, please contact us by calling 210-LAW-3000 or by filling out our simple online contact form. We’ll schedule a free consultation where we can discuss your case and your legal options, all to no cost to you.
Clark, M. (2013, October 16). Do traffic cameras work? Governing. Retrieved from http://www.governing.com/news/state/gov-do-traffic-cameras-really-work.html
Red light running: Q&As. (2018, April). Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Retrieved from https://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/red-light-running/qanda
Stone, B. (2018, September 10). Gov. Greg Abbott has a solution for anyone who hates red-light cameras in Texas: Ban them. Dallas News. Retrieved from https://www.dallasnews.com/news/texas-legislature/2018/09/10/gov-greg-abbott-solution-anyone-hates-red-light-cameras-ban
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